A tribute to the city’s bravest who died during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center drew thousands from the five boroughs and beyond to Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral Saturday afternoon.
The ceremony honored the 343 city firefighters and paramedics who lost their lives as they rushed into the towers to save their fellow New Yorkers. Members of the FDNY carried a flag for each firefighter who died at Ground Zero during a procession following the cathedral’s service.
The family of Shawn Powell, of Fort Greene’s Engine 207, said they never recovered the Bedford Stuyvesant-born firefighter’s remains and that they were unsure of which tower he entered.
His aunt, Ordella Dunn, of Roselle, N.J., said she was glad to see a large number of FDNY families at St. Patrick’s.
“The most moving part of the ceremony was seeing the next generation – the sisters, sons and brothers who are carrying the torch and keeping the spirit alive,” she said.
Powell’s son, Joshua Powell, 15, grew up in Crown Heights but moved to Georgia a few weeks ago.
“It still feels sad,” the ninth grader said of 9/11’s tenth anniversary.
Cassandra Carter, an East New York resident, worked at Verizon in the south tower, but was late to work on the day of the attacks. She said she hopes that the city’s residents always remember the sacrifices made by first responders on that day.
“I’m very thankful that they haven’t forgotten,” she said as she stood in front of St. Patrick’s. “I think we should do more about it every day of the year. It should be in the forefront of our minds. I try and pay tribute to them every chance I get.”
Queens resident Barbara Danjou was among the crowd watching the procession in front of the church.
“I didn’t even know they were having this today, but I walked by and saw it,” she said. “It was all I could do to stay and pay my respects. It’s just a sad day.”
At 2:15 p.m., the families of the firefighters started making their way into the cathedral.
Towards the end of the ceremony, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus performed “Shed a Little Light On Me.”
The names of all 343 firefighters and paramedics were read aloud by rank as their photographs appeared on a video display.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan, of the Archdiocese of New York, referred to them as “a hall of fame, a litany of saints.”
During the ceremony, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it had been a “tough week” for the families of 9/11 victims.
“This was an awfully tough week for the FDNY,” he said. “It’s an awfully tough week for many of us. The memories come rushing back. The FDNY lost 4,400 years of collective experience on 9/11. Perhaps, the biggest tribute we can pay is the mission they died for – to keep this city safe.”
FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said the city would never forget the first responders who sacrificed their lives to save others on 9/11.
“For us, the 343 will always be sacred,” he told the crowd at St. Patrick’s. “We were on the front lines and we fought those forces of evil… not just with physical strength, but courage… and compassion.”
Staten Island’s Debora Lauro, Mike Modafferi and Joanne Barbara all attended the service to honor the memory of their family members.
Modafferi’s father, Louis, was a battalion chief. Lauro lost her father, Battalion Chief Firefighter Joseph Grzelak, while Barbara lost her husband, Gerard A. Barbara.
“There’s a lot of anxiety before an event like this,” Barbara said at the memorial service. “Then, once you’re in there you know it’s the right thing to do.”
But not all of those who turned out to show their support hailed from the five boroughs.
Sylvia Carroll, who was visiting the city from Liverpool, England, said she traveled downtown this weekend to view the World Trade Center site.
“It’s very special to be here,” she said. “We’re really excited to see how New York has progressed after 10 years. It makes you feel quite solemn, especially when you look at where the towers used to be.”
Mike Barilla, who is a Pasadena Fire Department captain, said he and 13 firefighters traveled from California to take part in the ceremony.
“Whether it’s two miles or 3,000 miles, it’s about supporting our brotherhood,” he said. “We wanted to show support for their great loss.”